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Clayton Kershaw can earn up to $5 million in performance bonuses based on starts

MLB: Spring Training- Los Angeles Dodgers-Workouts Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw’s return to the Dodgers became official on Sunday, with the star left-hander’s one-year contract finalized by the team.

Kershaw chose the Dodgers over his hometown Rangers, telling reporters at Camelback Ranch in Arizona on Sunday, “At the end of the day, I wanted to be here and win a World Series and I think the Dodgers give me the best chance.”

The Dodgers will pay Kershaw a $2.5 signing bonus — payable within 15 days — and a $14.5 million salary this season, totaling $17 million, per the Associated Press.

The Dodgers have 15 players under contract for 2022, including Trevor Bauer, who is on administrative leave during his ongoing MLB investigation. Adding in the three players eligible for salary arbitration, and with some assumptions to fill out the rest of the current roster, the Dodgers payroll for competitive balance purposes is estimated at roughly $252 million.

Bauer getting placed on administrative leave removed him from the 40-man roster, creating the necessary space to add Kershaw.

Kershaw can earn up to $5 million in performance bonuses – $1 million for each of 16, 20, 22, 24, and 26 starts, per Robert Murray of FanSided. Kershaw also gets $1.5 million for winning the Cy Young Award, and $500,000 for finishing second or third. That matches Kershaw’s the annual award bonuses in Kershaw’s last contract.

Elbow soreness sidelined Kershaw for nearly all of the final three months of 2021, and a recurrence of elbow pain in his final start of the regular season wiped out his availability for the postseason as well. He made 22 starts and pitched 121⅔ innings last season, and hasn’t started 30 games in a season since 2015.

In the last five full seasons (2015-21, excluding the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign), Kershaw averaged 25 starts and 157 innings.

He enters 2022 with 2,670 career strikeouts, just 26 behind Don Sutton for the Dodgers franchise record.

Sutton’s 16 seasons with the Dodgers are the most by a pitcher in team history. Kershaw is returning for his 15th season, breaking his tie with Don Drysdale for second-longest tenure by a Dodgers pitcher.